Under current Florida Law, it is easier for a Miami personal injury attorney to recover damages for injuries caused by a drunk driver than for injuries caused by a drowsy driver. This is due to the fact that driving under the influence is highly regulated in this State whereas drowsy driving is not.
Driving Under the Influence
The Florida Legislature has thoroughly regulated the practice of driving under the influence (DUI) under Chapters 316 and 322 of the Florida Statutes. More specifically, under Florida law, the operator of a motor vehicle is criminally liable for injuries he/she causes others if that person is driving under the influence of a toxic substance that “affected the driver to the extent that his/her normal faculties were impaired.” In order to establish the liability of driver who is DUI, the state attorney will solely have to prove that the driver’s faculties were impaired as opposed to proving that the driver was negligent, which is more difficult. The state attorney’s task is even easier in the event of an accident that is caused by a drunk driver.
DUI is Penalized
In order to obtain a DUI manslaughter or battery conviction for drunk driving in Florida, a prosecutor only needs to establish that at the time of the accident, the driver’s alcohol content was in excess of 0.08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood F.S.§316.193(1)(b); or 0.08 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath F.S.§316.193(1)(c). Breath and/or blood tests are routinely performed by officers who respond to an automobile crash when the officer suspects that the driver was DUI. As such, if these tests determine that the content of alcohol in the driver’s blood or breath was in excess of the 0.08, the driver will be convicted for DUI. Such a conviction would facilitate a personal injury lawyer in securing punitive damages for a client who was struck by a drunken driver. These severe sanctions for DUI driving have deterred drivers from driving under the influence in this State.
No Penalty for Driving While Drowsy
There is no similar Florida legislation, though, to deter people from drowsy driving. (Please note that Federal law limits the number of hours an interstate truck driver can work in an effort to avoid drowsy driving. Log books are required to be carried by these drivers.) We and other qualified trucking lawyers have found that often these logs are not accurate and that the vast majority of tractor-trailer accidents are caused by tired or drowsy 18 wheel drivers.
According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), researchers in Australia have shown that a person who has been awake for 24 hours has impaired faculties, as if that person had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.10 which is higher than the legal threshold of 0.008 for DUIs. Despite these statistics, people do not hesitate to drive while sleep deprived. This reckless practice poses a constant threat on South Florida roads.
Consequences of Driving While Drowsy
Moreover, drowsy driving is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle crashes in the United States. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) reported that “the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conservatively estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes are the direct result of driver fatigue each year.” These accidents resulted in an estimated 1,550 deaths, 71,000 injuries, and $12.5 billion in monetary losses. Despite these staggering numbers, there is currently no legislation in Florida which criminalizes the practice of drowsy driving.
Unlike DUIs, the Florida Legislature has not enacted laws to punished drowsy driving. Proponents against the passing of such a law argue that unlike blood level testing, there is no test determining whether a person was driving while sleepy or drowsy. This argument is flawed as the Florida Legislature could render illegal the practice of driving while drowsy when the same affects the driver to the extent that his/her normal faculties are impaired. Roadside testing and questions to a driver can aide in assessing a driver’s condition. Exploring a driver’s actions before a crash can also yield information that may prove beneficial. This is the general test that has been used by the Florida Legislature for DUIs as explained previously. Such subtle change in the law would deter drivers from driving when they feel sleepy and render Florida roads safer.
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